Focaccia: The Gateway to All Italian Breads

Bake your way to an Italian bread.

LF Team

There is a sense of elation and joy when you pull on a fluffy and aromatic loaf of bread, straight out of the oven. At times, it might make you feel as if you are walking across Italian piazzas. Italians are known for their love of food and wine, and they also love focaccia with the same passion. A breakfast staple of many, focaccia is eaten as is or with some meat slices and vegetables pressed in between slices.


The name of the focaccia is a derivative of the Latin panis focacius, which translates into ‘hearth bread’ or a bread baked on an open fire . The Greeks were already making bread similar to focaccia before the Romans or the current Italians. These loaves of bread were made with grains such as barley, rye, and millet.

 



The Latins offered focaccia to the Gods and relished it with wine at weddings, in the Renaissance period. It is said that in the 1500s, the consumption of simple focaccia bread with oil was familiar and widespread in churches, especially during weddings. Today, focaccia has become a staple in the Italian region, Liguria, capital of Genoa, which has established itself in the gourmet world for its numerous types of focaccia bread.

 

The global lockdown has forced almost everyone to go back to the original recipes. And one of them is the flavour-packed focaccia bread. Smothered lovingly and generously with olive oil and topped with almost everything your heart wants, focaccia is comfort bread. If you can knead some flour, you can make this bread; it is that easy! Focaccia can be garnished with coarse salt, herbs and olive oil.

 

The versatility of this bread is what makes it fun to make, especially with the help of kids. Stretch the dough thinly into a pan to get a chewy, crusty loaf or shape it into a thicker loaf. The focaccia dough can be shaped any way you want, but it always gives a crusty outside with a soft inside. Olive oil plays a significant part in all the steps that are needed to make a focaccia. Large loaves of focaccia are topped with herbs and cheeses which become the basis for many sandwich variations.



There are many variations of focaccia toppings but the ones most loved are rosemary, olives, garlic, cheese and even your favourite vegetables. The simplest form of topping is a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of coarse salt. Focaccia bread has become a trending topic on social media, thanks to the easy recipe and a high success rate.

The kneading technique used in shaping focaccia dough is easy and highly important. Pinch the dough with your index finger and thumb to incorporate all the ingredients nicely. You should always use the heel of your hand, pulling the dough from the centre out, and then pulling it back again in the centre. This folding technique will activate the gluten in the dough. With a precise folding technique, an adequate amount of air is introduced in the dough. Put it aside and repeat it 2-3 times after every 20 minutes. Over-kneading the dough can damage the formation of air holes and texture. Let’s take a look at some tips to bake the perfect focaccia.

  1. Keep your dough overnight in a cool place to rise. A long rise builds flavour and texture.
  2. Shape your dough and leave it alone for an hour before baking it.
  3. Test different cooking vessels such as a pan, sheet or a cast iron.
  4. Use a generous amount of olive oil while shaping the dough and lightly make dimples in it.
  5. Use fresh ingredients for toppings, especially aromatic herbs.
  6. Enjoy the bread oven-hot or keep it covered in tin foil until the next serving.


    Now that you know focaccia so well, it’s time to scoop up some flour and spread the aromatic bliss of focaccia in your house too!


    For a focaccia recipe video, click here.

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